Many think of Easter as a single day, but my church celebrates the season of Easter. In the Book of Acts, the Risen Jesus appeared to his disciples for forty days. During this time, Jesus showed himself alive with many convincing proofs, he taught them about the kingdom of God and he reminded them of God's promise to send His Holy Spirit.
Jesus appeared to his disciples for more than one day, therefore we celebrate his resurrection for a season.
During this Easter season, we hear many stories about the Lord's resurrection appearances. One of my favorite is about Thomas, one of Jesus' disciples. On that first Easter evening, when Jesus appeared to his disciples, Thomas was gone. When he returned, he heard their stories.
"We have seen the Lord," the disciples said. Jesus alive, how could this possibly be, Thomas wondered? "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." Thomas said. A week later, the disciples were again together, including Thomas. Again, Jesus stood among them. He turned to Thomas and said, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe."
In faith, Thomas cried, "My Lord and my God!"
Faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus - sometimes I think this is the most scandalous claim of the Christian faith. Our world values the seen and the explained. We are like Thomas, we want proof. We want to see with our own eyes. But this presents a problem because Jesus is no longer standing among us as he did with the disciples. He has ascended, returned to his father in heaven.
So in our world, a world which expects proof, how do we have faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
I think it helps to look again Jesus' resurrected appearances to his disciples. The 20th chapter of gospel of John record four encounters. We hear of the "beloved" disciple who simply saw the empty tomb and the burial linens and believed. We meet Mary Magdalene, who is so grief-stricken that even when Jesus stands before her, she doesn't recognize him. But when he speaks her name, his presence cuts through her grief and she see the truth. We find the ten disciples huddled together in a house, behind locked doors, because of their fear.
Despite the locked doors, Jesus comes and stands in their midst and brings his peace. Then we watch as Thomas, the one who demanded proof, receives what he needs as Jesus offers him his hands and his side.
Each of these disciples is in a different place. Some were strong in faith, some weak. Jesus met each one where they were and provided what they needed to have faith. The beloved disciple saw the linens; Mary heard her name; the ten received peace; Thomas saw his Lord with his eyes. Jesus gave each what they needed.
Jesus provides us with what we need for faith also. He comes to us, allowing us to have faith. But he doesn't look like he did to those first disciples. Instead he comes through his body that remains on earth - his Church. He comes through the voice that proclaims the word of God. He comes through the hand that reaches out to help one in need. When my faith is weak and I question the presence of the risen Lord, I look around and see his face in those around me.
No, we do not see in the same way that the first disciples saw. But through the power of God's Holy Spirit, the life of the Risen Christ does live among us. As we open our eyes in faith, we will see him in our midst and cry, "Alleluia, Christ is risen!"